Sometimes a sound has to be cast into the outer darkness for decades before you realise how good it can be. That’s what happened to the bass-spanking rhythm of early Eighties white funk.
Anathematised along with its sweatbands, baggy vests, cowbells and bongos by the arrival of The Smiths, rendered redundant by house and rave, it vanished taking many a good band – A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo – with it. We thought it would never return. But now it’s back.
The hottest band of the moment is a straight-up funk outfit whose loping, spacious grooves are spattered over with tropical percussion, wildlife noises, falsetto yelps, psychedelic washes and badoinking bass.
Nobody in their increasingly fanatical young audience cares that this stuff was supposed to be uncool because it isn’t uncool any more. Right now Jungle are one of the best night outs going.
And nobody really knows who they are. A loose and anonymous collective centred on two childhood friends known only as J and T, Jungle have so far been represented only by remarkable videos featuring hip hop dancers including a six-year old girl called Terra.
In a time when everything is over-shared and turbo-tweeted, maybe it’s a shame to destroy a lone island of mystery. If you agree, you probably shouldn’t read the next paragraph.
It seems likely that J and T are former members of a Verve-style shoegazing band called Born Blonde who signed to Mercury Records in 2010 but never quite happened. Born Blonde’s core members were Joshua Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, whose initials are a bit of a coincidence.
If it is them, brace yourself for a return of the great poshness-in-pop debate, for Born Blonde went to the achingly exclusive Latymer Upper School.
But does it really matter? Would you rather have bad music from horny-handed sons of toil, or great music from people with fancy middle names?
"You know how it is,” T from Jungle told me over the phone. “You’ve got your mum and dad's music, but then your brother throws a Funkadelic CD on the bed when you're 14 and it blows your mind open.” This can never be a bad thing. Read on for more from T on the lore of the Jungle.
1 | They're Relaxed About The Whole Anonymity Thing
“OK, it’s the age of the Internet and someone's going to find out who we are eventually,” says T. “Already some people have worked out what bands we used to be in. But that's fine. We’re not trying to hide who we are, we just want to be known for the music and what we create visually.
"The music’s more interesting than we are. A year ago we were stuck in J's bedroom just working on tracks. Now, the shows are getting bigger and bigger, we've supported Haim, and we just got back from LA, which was insane.
"It's brilliant to have a crowd turn up for something that you started in your bedroom. And it’s cool to get 800 people who want to have fun, but who understand that there's a bit of honesty and integrity in what you do.”
2 | Their Videos Are Something Else
“When somebody tells you they know a brilliant six-year old girl who’s an amazing breakdancer, you have to use her, don’t you? We saw her totally destroy this kid on a dance battle and we thought, She’s got to be in the video.
'We make them with mates and mates of mates from around our neighbourhood, Shepherd’s Bush. It’s a good place for mixing stuff up. The Who started out there. Maybe there's a bit of that energy still around."
3 | They Got The Early Eighties White Funk Sound By Accident
“It’s interesting to be compared to all those British bands because we don't really know much about them. People tell us we sound like TV On The Radio. When we were growing up it was about P-funk and but Joy Division too.
"My brother was really intro Krautrock so I picked up on that rhythmic, repetitive thing. The bass isn’t actually slapped, though. Maybe it sounds a bit that way? We both play bass but it’s all played tightly, with a pick. We’re not slap merchants!”
4 | It's A Sexy Sound, And Ladies Love Jungle
"I dunno, maybe we're just sexy people? Getting people's hips and bodies moving is what music should be about. My favourite records, like Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On”, are full of that sexual energy. If you’ve got a groove it’ll translate whether you're playing to 20 people or 2,000. We just want to see the hips moving. We’re about having fun – lots of it.”
Originally appeared in Esquire Weekly. Click here to subscribe.